November 26, 2013

Ezekial Bread Stuffing Cups

Every year at Thanksgiving, far-flung from the little Massachusetts town where I grew up, I think of my dad's momentous stuffing, brimming from both ends of the turkey, so moist you can slice it like meatloaf. I'm pretty sure it takes two days to make, and that no stuffing on earth has ever been so breathtakingly good.

Still, for the first time this year I've tried my hand at stuffing, and I've learned a couple of good lessons along the way. First, I learned that good stuffing is really, really easy to make and no one should be intimidated by all those Braque-esque cubes of bread and lamb-soft sage leaves that, don't worry, nobody buys on a regular basis. (Except maybe my dad. Actually, I think he grows the stuff. He's that kind of guy.)

Second, I learned that traditions are a lot like family itself: part remembrance, part reinvention. These stuffing cups borrow the best of my dad's tricks, like baking the chunks of bread slow and low for the ultimate "stale" loaf, and pulsing some of the bread into crumbs for a denser, moister stuffing. But they're also a style all my own, made from sprouted whole grain bread for a nutty and healthful stuffing, and baked into fun, freezable muffin form.

Note: the stuffing works just as well in a bird or a pan, like this...

I hope you enjoy the recipe, and that you have a beautiful Thanksgiving filled with nourishing food, gratitude, and the people you love most. Cheers!

Ezekial Bread Stuffing Cups
Time: 2 hours
Makes: 18-24 cups

1 loaf Ezekial sprouted grain bread
1 large sweet onion, diced
5 stalks celery, diced
3/4 cup butter (1.5 sticks)
1 packed Tbls. fresh thyme leaves, minced
1 packed Tbls. fresh sage leaves, minced
1/4 packed cup fresh parsley, minced
2 eggs
2 cups chicken or turkey stock (homemade if possible)
1 tsp. fine grained sea salt (less if using store-bought broth)

Arrange sliced bread on two cookie trays and bake at 250 degrees 45 minutes, or until bread is completely dry and crisp. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Chop half the bread roughly into cubes, and pulse the rest in a food processor into medium-fine crumbs.

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat and saute onions and celery, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about ten minutes.

Remove pot from heat and stir in parsley, thyme, and sage. Fold all the bread crumbs and bits into the vegetables.

While the bread mixture is cooling and in a separate bowl, whisk together eggs with broth and salt. Carefully pour the liquid into the bread and combine well.

Spoon into lined muffin tin and bake at 350 for 20 minutes, or until stuffing cups are nicely browned, but still moist inside. Alternately, you can spoon the whole mixture into a large baking dish, and bake 25 minutes covered, then 15 minutes uncovered. Alternately, you can stuff it in a turkey.

November 21, 2013

Lemony Chickpea Soup with Parsley and Cumin

Eating this soup forever reminds me of one of my favorite things about home cooking, the throw-together masterpiece. Most days, I plan for dinner a little in the morning, soaking beans, grating ginger, or chopping an onion to stash in the fridge. I like the rhythm of it, but I also face my share of oh-crap-I-forgot-to-even-think-about-dinner days. I take a deep breath and start hacking at vegetables at 6pm, not exactly sure what will appear on the table, but sure that it has to appear there soon.

This soup began as one of those harried improvisations. I had some cooked chickpeas in the fridge, and skinny frozen green beans that I was curious to try in a soup. I started tossing veggies in my pot, then decided on a whim to conjure up a Middle Eastern flavor with smoky cumin, bright lemon, and fresh parsley I snipped from the garden. I simmered and stirred and read a few picture books with Darwin, and when I returned to my soup pot for a taste off the wooden spoon, my (frenzied!) efforts were richly rewarded.

We've enjoyed this soup at family dinners many times since I took that first, delightful sip, and now I'm happy to share the recipe with you. Enjoy it just like this, or with a dollop of plain yogurt on top.

Lemony Chickpea Soup with Parsley and Cumin
30 minutes
Serves 6

1 onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 red potato, scrubbed and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup red lentils, rinsed and drained
2.5 cups cooked chickpeas
2/3 cup chopped fresh or frozen French green beans
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, loosely packed
juice from half a lemon
1 tsp. sea salt, or to taste

Sweat the onion, carrots, and celery in a few swirls of olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat, about five minutes.

Add the garlic, fry for one minute, then add red lentils, chickpeas, potato, dried spices, salt, and four cups of water.

Bring to a boil over high heat, then immediately reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes, or until lentils are completely softened and breaking apart like a thick stew.

Add the green beans and parsley and simmer only a minute or two more, until green beans are just tender.

Remove from heat, add lemon juice, and ladle into serving bowls.

November 13, 2013

Activity: Grow Microgreens with Kids!

Darwin stoops in the chilly November air, reaching past his coat sleeves to clutch a handful of soil, which he drops carefully into a recycled plastic mushroom container. I help him level and pat it down, then a few moments later, he's sprinkling radish seeds onto the new surface, swirling his hand like a chef salting a pot of stew. How did my little bundle become so big, such a determined student of everything I show him?

Kids and microgreens are a natural pairing. They both start small and seem to grow before our eyes, brimming with zest and vitality. And they both love dirt! Today's post shares my little tutorial on growing your own microgreens, indoors or out, to captivate and nourish the people you love.

The tiny leaf vegetables we call microgreens grow from seeds and are ready for harvest when their first true leaves appear, usually only a week or two after planting. You can grow almost any leaf vegetable as a microgreen, from broccoli, kale, and radishes to lettuces and herbs.

Planting and tending a crop of these little veggies with kids is so much fun, and it earns you super-parenting points, because everybody in the family gets to:
-learn how seeds sprout and plants grow
-welcome a burst of fresh color into the home (especially as the weather cools)
-choose responsibility for some of the family's food 
-garden using almost no money or space
-enjoy spicy new flavors
-benefit from great nutrition, with vitamins 4-6 times more concentrated than in mature plants

I hope you'll give it a try! Check out the instructions below, and have fun!

Grow Your Own Microgreens
If you're new to microgreens, try a first crop of radishes or mixed lettuces. These are fast to germinate, easy to grow, and they taste delicious.


-one or more small plastic food containers, such as those mushrooms or baby spinach are sold in
-a small bag of organic potting soil or seed starting mix
-one or more packets of seeds, such as radish, mixed lettuces, kale, broccoli, peas, etc.
-a sunny window
-a plate for drainage
-a paper towel
-a clean water bottle spritzer (optional, but helpful)


1. Have a grownup use a sharp knife to carefully pierce several small holes in the bottom of your plastic container(s).

2. Fill your container(s) almost to the top with potting soil, pressing it down gently.

3. Water the soil until it is very wet.

4. Sprinkle seeds thickly and evenly across the top of the soil, leaving only a few millimeters between each seed. (Some overlap is OK.)

5. Press the seeds gently into the soil. (They will nestle in a little, but will still be visible.)

6. Drape a damp paper towel across the top.

 7. Place the container on a plate for drainage, and put it in a sunny window.

Tending and Harvesting:
Note: this schedule is approximate, and different conditions and seed varieties could require different numbers of days in each step.

Days 1-3: Once or twice a day, remove the paper towel, mist the seeds, then replace the paper towel (the seeds like darkness and moisture to germinate, but are easily dislodged. If you don't have a mister, try gently drizzling water from your hands.)

Days 3-5: After seeds have germinated, remove the paper towel. Continue misting the seeds once or twice daily.

Days 6+: Now that the seeds are beginning to take root and leaf out, switch to watering only once a day, but increase the volume of your watering. Try using a small watering can, or bottom-watering by pouring a cup of water into the drainage plate for the roots to soak up. (Bottom-watering is a good strategy to prevent crowded leaves from growing mold, but I usually water from the top, and rarely have a problem.)

Day 14+, Harvest Day! When the greens have sprouted their first one or two true leaves (or the third and fourth leaves, if you count the cotyledons), harvest them! Hold your container(s) mostly upright over a large plate or bowl, and use clean scissors to snip the greens off at the stem. Rinse and enjoy the flavor and beauty of your tiny veggies!

November 8, 2013

Naked Gyoza

Let's agree: the filling is the best part. A couple of weeks ago I bit into an Asian dumpling from our farmer's market, and fell in love again with that little bundle of simple, seasoned vegetables that someone painstakingly (trust me, I know) crimped inside. Can't we just eat it by the bowlful? Can't we please?

This naked gyoza recipe serves up delicately cut veggies in a tangy-sweet brown sauce flavored with scallions and sesame. We don't miss the doughy dumplings at all, especially because there are so many other fresh and healthy ways to serve this stuff: stir-fried into brown rice, tossed with buckwheat or whole wheat noodles as in yaki soba, folded into your own whole wheat gyoza wrappers, or just piled high in a bowl with a side of scrambled eggs (my favorite.)

Naked gyoza is an easy sell on the kid-front, too, because the veggies are so finely minced, and they're a little sweet. Darwin calls this, simply, "filling," although he's tickled by my naked-talk at the dinner table. Enjoy it!

Naked Gyoza
Time: 20 minutes

Serves 2-4

For the stir-fry:
3 cups finely shredded cabbage
3/4 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup frozen peas
1 green onion, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
2 Tbls. butter

For the sauce:
1 Tbls. soy sauce
1 Tbls. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbls. unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tsp. honey
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1/4 tsp. freshly grated ginger (optional)

Whisk all sauce ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat, and add shredded cabbage. Fry until mostly tender, stirring often, about five minutes.

Add carrots, and fry until softened, 3-5 minutes.

Remove pot from heat and add scallions, peas, and sauce. (The peas will defrost fully in the hot veggies.) Stir until well-combined, then serve as is, or use inside homemade goyza, fried rice, or other Asian recipes.

November 1, 2013

Cozy Cauliflower Pizza-Bake

Thumbs up to the the cauliflower-crust pizza craze. I love the idea of replacing a nutrient-poor ingredient like white flour with a vegetable, and still getting to eat pizza for dinner! And doesn't it look tasty?

And yet I haven't made it. And I have no plans to make it. Because as good as I'm sure it is, it strikes me as just a little fussy, for pizza. (I love to make pizza from scratch, but homemade whole wheat dough is a little fussy, too. I guess it was always meant to be a special occasion food at our house.)

My other little gripe about this Pinterest rock star recipe is the part where you wring the water out of the cauliflower. It's true that food processing you do in your own kitchen, cauliflower-strangling included, is generally far better than eating foods processed in a factory. But if your goal is great nutrition, it's worth remembering that the way you prepare good ingredients matters. A quick search uncovered a whole bunch of water-soluble vitamins in cauliflower that I'm guessing go down the drain during the cauliflower death-grip.  These include B-vitamins, folate, Vitamin C, and choline.

When I set out to re-create the yummy flavors in cauliflower-crust pizza, I wanted to make it fast and easy enough for a weekday lunch, and I wanted to keep my cauliflower whole and wonderful. Here's the result: a tasty, cozy, pizza casserole!

There's no official recipe for this meal, but here's what I did: first I chopped cauliflower into florets, and steamed it for about five minutes (I suspect leftover roasted cauliflower would also be delicious.) Then I tossed the florets with some marinara sauce and freshly-shredded Mozzarella cheese, and scooped the mixture into an 8oz ramekin. I sprinkled a little extra cheese on top, and slid it into the toaster oven to bake at 400 degrees for about ten minutes.

Darwin and I shared one little casserole dish of this cheesy cauliflower, and it was delicious! Enjoy it, fellow lazy-bones!